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Heroic Women In Strong Poses: Serena Williams, Amy Schumer In Pirelli Calendar

Yao Chen, Annie Leibovitz, Tavi Gevinson, Agnes Gund, and Marco Tronchetti Provera attended the launch of the 2016 Pirelli Calendar by Annie Leibovitz at Grosvenor House in London Monday.

After traveling in the same direction for more than 50 years, Italian tire maker Pirelli pulled a U-turn for its 2016 calendar, putting ostentatious sexuality in its review mirror – for at least one year – to focus on women's strength and achievements in new images by photographer Annie Leibovitz.

Instead of exotic beaches and sensual close-ups, the 2016 calendar presents black-and-white portraits of a wide range of accomplished women, from athlete Serena Williams and comedian Amy Schumer to investment banker Mellody Hobson.

"The whole idea was not to have any pretense in these pictures, and to be straightforward and show these women exactly, like who they are," Leibovitz says in a Pirelli video that gives a behind-the-scenes look at making the calendar.

Leibovitz says Pirelli asked her for a "departure" from years past, and that's what the company got. In the 2015 calendar, many of the models were photographed topless or clad in latex (or both).

Of the 12 portraits in the 2016 iteration, only Williams and Schumer are in revealing poses, and both of them are turned at least partially away from the camera.

As the calendar was released, Schumer created a stir on social media, posting an image from her photo shoot and the caption "Beautiful, gross, strong, thin, fat, pretty, ugly, sexy, disgusting, flawless, woman. Thank you Annie Leibovitz!"

In response to that, one man wrote, "Now, please explain to my wife, this is what beautiful women look like! Good deal Amy Shumer!" — in a comment that has received a thumbs-up more than 15,000 people.

Speaking about her portrait — in which she's seen sitting on a stool, drinking coffee from a paper cup — Schumer says, "I felt I looked more beautiful than I've ever felt in my life, and I felt like it looked like me."

Other women in the calendar include musicians Patti Smith and Yoko Ono, blogger and actress Tavi Gevinson, and artist Shirin Neshat. The list also includes Ava DuVernay, director of Selma, and Chinese actress Yao Chen, who highlights her UN work with refugees to tens of millions of followers on social media.

The 2016 calendar also features writer Fran Lebowitz, who said of the lack of revealing photos, "Believe me, I don't think naked girls have gone out of fashion. But it's interesting that people are interested in different ways of looking at women."

As the photography blog PetaPixel says, the Pirelli calendar is normally "given as a gift to an exclusive group of about 20,000 rich, famous, and powerful people around the world. While past women were chosen for their looks, this year's were chosen for their achievements."

If you're curious about what older versions of the calendar have looked like, earlier this year, a 50-year retrospective of images from the Pirelli calendar was released by the publisher Taschen.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit

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